What a difference a week makes. Back then (in the darkness that was 2011) we were clearly talking nonsense when we said
“Even after Santa has finished the two day whisky-drinking binge he calls ‘delivering presents’, he could call this. England ‘B’ by a distance.”
about the second test between South Africa and Sri Lanka. As it happened, South Africa appeared to be the ones who came into the match from a two day whisky-drinking binge, taking an almighty beating, eventually losing by 208 runs. Sri Lanka’s first Test win since July 2010 squared the series going into what is (these days) an almost unprecedented third game.
After a performance of such staggering ineptitude, South Africa could be forgiven for making sweeping changes for Cape Town. However, it looks like the fall guy will be Ashwell Prince. He can hardly claim to be hard done by after a run of poor form, culminating in getting out reverse sweeping with his side in trouble at 119/6. In his place will be Alviro Petersen, although he is likely to be asked to open, with Jacques Rudolph moved to the middle order, presumably to have a long, hard think about some of the ridiculous ways he has been getting himself out.
In terms of the bowling, South Africa have a different sort of problem – too many quick bowlers for too few places in the team. Vernon Philander is fit and will definitely come back in. With Morne Morkel showing signs of remembering how to bowl, Marchant de Lange is likely to be the unlucky man to miss out. Although he’ll keep his place, Imran Tahir will be another feeling the pressure. His Test career to date has been something of a disappointment. Match figures of 3/165 in Durban weren’t overly impressive and there have already been whispers about moving back to Paul Harris’s more containing style.
The Sri Lankans will have enjoyed their new year celebrations, after finally winning a Test sans Murali. They’re likely to be unchanged after both the batting and bowling clicked impressively into place in Durban. There has been a question mark over wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal after he suffered a bruised arm in training but he is likely to be fit. After an impressive start to his Test career Sri Lanka will be looking to him to continue to provide momentum from the number seven position.
In some ways, defeat in the final Test wouldn’t be a disaster for Sri Lanka. They’ve already exceeded expectations by being level at this stage of the series. It may be that this lack of pressure (especially compared to their hosts) allows them to again go out and perform.
Even after we’ve finished the two day whisky-drinking binge we call ‘new year’, we could call this. South Africa by a distance. Probably. Unless they do another massive choking job.